Two local hospitals allegedly dumped hazardous waste such as blood and tissue into the Miramar Landfill, a county inspection found.
The inspection of Sharp Memorial and Scripps Health hospitals violated several state environmental laws, including dumping medical waste, failing to separate medical waste properly and other storage violations, according to a statement from District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
In a separate inspection, the California Department of Public Health found that Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla violated an additional health code.
A patient at Scripps had to undergo a second surgery in 2010 to remove a small pin left inside the patient during the first surgery, according to a CDPH statement. It was the sixth administrative penalty at the hospital. The fine was $100,000.
“Scripps deeply regrets this event,” a spokesperson said in response to the CDPH report. “As a result, we have made improvements, including changes to our count and X-ray processes, to prevent events such as this from occurring in the future.”
The environmental violations raised concern at the DA’s office – especially for repeat offender Scripps Health, which had similar violations in 2001.
“We’re not claiming they’re crooks,” said Thomas Papageorge, Head of the Consumer Protection Unit at the DA’s office. “[The hospitals] just need to be more careful of how they handle these things.”
The hospitals settled with the DA’s office, and agreed to pay fines and undertake “projects to benefit the environment,” Dumanis’ office stated.
For the medical waste allegations, Sharp Memorial Hospital agreed to pay about $103,000 in fines and penalties. Scripps will pay about $273,000 – twice as much as Sharp, since the Scripps hospitals received more citations in addition to their prior violations.
On four occasions between March 2008 and 2010, Scripps hospitals dumped several tons loads of trash at Miramar Landfill. The loads included blood fluid, pharmaceutical waste and other contaminates, which had to be removed from the landfill, Papageorge said.
“We regret these occurrences and consider them unacceptable,” Scripps Health stated in a press release, adding that they will do everything possible to ensure that future waste is disposed of properly, including better employee training and surveillance of dumpsters.
Sharp hospitals had fewer violations. Sharp Memorial Hospital and Sharp Mary Birch Hospital failed two landfill checks during a span of about three years. Inspectors found bone fragments, blood and biohazardous drugs in loads taken to Miramar Landfill.
A Sharp Healthcare spokesperson said that Sharp agrees with the judgments made by the DA’s office.
“Since the reported issues were brought to our attention,” the spokesperson said, “all our hospitals have enhanced their processes and procedures to assure we dispose of all our waste properly.”
Dumanis said both hospitals solved the problems quickly, and that the violations occurred over an extended period of time.
“We do believe they have taken positive steps to end the violations today,” Papageorge said.